It’s already difficult working in policy where you have to talk about intricate things like paradigms and culturally-relevant language. Try speaking to government leaders – who make important decisions affecting tribes – about very specific tribal philosophy. Many of those leaders still fail to realize tribe exist, that they have a supposed sovereign status, and that their culture is unique and rich. If there’s any concept of a Native culture, it’s usually some Hollywood-inspired, Pan-Indian misconception.
More often than not, policy and projects are entrenched in this White Savior Complex as almost this default residual of past Manifest Destiny tradition. This can be hard to see. For example, NGO projects look well-intentioned on the outside, but in reality they are just a tool of modern colonization. One group assumes power through knowledge and resources over another, comes in to “fix” that community’s problems, and meanwhile fails to connect at a cultural level that respects the community’s traditional wisdom, values, and belief system.
Epistemology is a popular term in Navajo Philosophy. In many ways, it describes how Native cultures have knowledge and wisdom in Pre-Columbian times. The problem is the lenses of Western society fail to acknowledge the credibility in that knowledge.
Epistemology studies the nature of knowledge, the rationality of belief, and justification. Much of the debate in epistemology centers on four areas: (1) the philosophical analysis of the nature of knowledge and how it relates to such concepts as truth, belief, andjustification, (2) various problems of skepticism, (3) the sources and scope of knowledge and justified belief, and (4) the criteria for knowledge and justification.
Not acknowledging the complex culture and wisdom of non-Western societies is the horrible error made by Europeans who attempted to colonize the Americas. Manifest Destiny was based completely on this concept of “inferiority”. Despite the incredible Aztec temples that are still visited by tourists today, the white leaders of the Manifest Destiny era only saw wild, untamed societies who lacked their God. A lot of the NGO work that is done today has nuances and undertones of the same superiority-inferiority complex. But critiquing work for not incorporating traditional wisdom or philosophical paradigms is just one small but intricate piece of lingering white supremacy. Some of it is far more blatant.
How can we progress when leaders are making public announcements that white people built the world? That white people are the reason for everything great? That Christianity has done nothing but save everyone? Anyone with a true understand of World Civilizations and an unbiased perspective will see this is far from true. But Representative Steve King, a Republican in Iowa, is convinced otherwise.
While on a panel discussion with MSNBC host Chris Hayes, discussing the racial makeup of the Republican Party on the first day of its convention, Mr. King blatantly declared that nonwhite “subgroups” have not contributed to society. The conversation began when Mr. Hayes commented about diversity maybe finally making its way into the party. The conversation continued as such:
Mr. King: “This whole ‘old white people’ business does get a little tired, Charlie. I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you are talking about? Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”
Mr. Hayes: “Than white people?”
Mr. King: “Than Western civilization itself that’s rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the United States of America, and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world. That’s all of Western civilization.”
(Panelist frantic shouting)
April Ryan (reporter on panel): “What about Africa? What about Asia?”
As if the Chinese invented nothing. As if the Mayans did nothing. Or Indians. Or Egyptians. What about the impressive skills of the Maori? All of the scholars and scientists who have come from the continent of Africa? Or this site, describing a vastly non-white number of civilizations that are widely considered some of the most “advanced” civilizations on earth? My Archaeoastronomy course in college that studied ancient Native civilizations as being complex in ceremony and their knowledge of multidimensional math to follow the pattern of celestial bodies? And construct large buildings around it?
The fact that we have people like that in power is terrifying. His mentality is not very different from that of Hitler’s when you think about it. Christianity saved the world? Christianity has also been responsible for mass genocide for thousands of years.